Montreal

Quebec's lower immigration quotas mean a longer wait for those approved

Stuck in a backlog for final federal approval of their residency permits, thousands of applicants will have to wait longer as Quebec squeezes its annual intake.

Legault says previous government 'mismanaged' application process

Quebec Premier François Legault responded to reporters questions on immigration on Tuesday. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Already stuck in a backlog for final federal approval of their residency permits, thousands of aspiring immigrants will have to wait longer as Quebec squeezes its annual intake.

These applicants are separate from the 18,000 people whose applications for a Quebec selection certificate (CSQ) are in limbo as lawyers and politicians spar over an attempt to scrap them.

Quebec tells the federal government how many permanent residency files to approve each year, the final step after a CSQ is granted. The Coalition Avenir Québec government has lowered that quota, meaning many waiting for that final step will wait even longer.

It's a situation that immigration lawyer Guillaume Cliche-Rivard calls "dramatic and devastating."

"These people are selected by Quebec. This means they answer all the qualifications of the Quebec government," said Cliche-Rivard, president of an association of immigration lawyers, known by its French acronym AQAADI. "They were told green light."

"To put those families into that distress, it's inhumane and a lack of compassion," he said. "Some of them are waiting for spouses, separated from their kids."

This group of applicants, numbering 41,200, have received their CSQs. 

Since 2015, Quebec's requested intake has been around 25,000, but annual CSQ approvals have consistently outnumbered that quota, drawing out the wait for some.

The CAQ lowered the quota to 19,500 this year, meaning even more of those 41,200 files won't be processed until 2020 at the earliest, and some will wait two years.

On Wednesday, Premier François Legault attributed the issue to the previous Liberal government, saying they had "mismanaged" the demand.

"It doesn't make sense to not be able to give answers in a reasonable time" to applicants, Legault said.

If the province maintains their 19,500 target, a skilled worker candidate who has already obtained a CSQ could therefore wait more than two years to obtain permanent residence.

It's also possible that applicants through Quebec's new system, still being debated in the National Assembly, will have to wait even longer. Ottawa currently deals with the files in the order they arrive, up to the threshold defined by Quebec.

"For the sake of fairness to claimants who are already waiting for their claims to be processed, and because this is a general policy that applies to all aspects of immigration, [the department] usually deals with requests on a first-come, first-served basis," said Peter Liang, a spokesperson for Immigration Canada.

A 2-stage path to residency

After obtaining a Quebec selection certificate (CSQ), a qualified worker must send the document to Ottawa.

Following a criminal record check and medical tests, the federal government grants permanent residence.

However, as per a 1991 agreement, Ottawa must meet the immigration targets set by Quebec.

In 2016, when the Quebec Liberal Party was in power, the Quebec government gave nearly 40,000 CSQs to skilled workers.

The number of skilled-worker applications waiting to be processed in Ottawa that year was around 25,000. In the years since, that number has climbed steadily and stood at 41,200 at the start of 2019.

With files from Radio-Canada

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